Ostensibly the tale of a man out to nail the spoiled punk who killed his dog, this slow-burn revenge tale is at heart a brutally nuanced character study anchored by Brian Cox's astonishing performance as a man driven to extremes by his thwarted quest for a small measure of justice.
Quiet, genial veteran Avery Ludlow (Cox) lost his wife and two sons to a brutal crime; everyone in his small Oregon town knows all about it and no-one mentions it -- he's a good neighbor, an honest local businessman and a thoroughly decent fellow, so they look out for him in small ways and hope cruel fate is done putting the finger on him. Red, a 14-year-old mongrel whose wiry coat has faded to a dull rust, is Avery's constant companion, a gift from Avery's late wife on his 50th birthday and the living link to a happier past. Living, that is, until a little sociopath-in-the-making with a fancy semiautomatic shotgun tries to rob Avery and callously shoots Red because the old man doesn't have enough cash. Avery tracks down the boy's identity -- 18-year-old Danny (Noel Fisher, of TV's The Riches), the spoiled son of vicious trucking magnate Michael McCormack (Tom Sizemore) -- and goes looking for an apology. McCormack close ranks -- one look at his cowering, former beauty-queen wife (Ashley Laurence) and timid younger son Harold (Kyle Gallner) speaks volumes -- and pays off the impoverished Dousts (Amanda Plummer, Robert Englund), whose son Pete (Shiloh Fernandez, of TV's Jericho) was hanging out with the morally compromised rich boys. Avery goes to the courts and then the press, but McCormack has money and connections, and his pride is wounded: When Avery won't quit he's not content to keep his boys out of trouble -- McCormack won't be satisfied until he ruins the bull-headed old man who seems to think a dog's life is worth more than its replacement value and that honor and personal responsibility are more than words.
Adapted from a novel by the pitiless Jack Ketchum, RED underwent a mid-production change of director from over-hyped neo-master of horror Lucky McKee to Norwegian-born USC graduate Trygve Allister Diesen. Fortunately, the seams don't show and a few evocative shots (like the one of Avery's bedroom door, scarred by the marks of Red's claws) aside, the film is all about performance. The chronically underappreciated Cox (a RADA-trained chameleon whose credits include the first and arguably best screen incarnation of Dr. Lector) is ably supported by Sizemore, prolific character actor Richard Riehle, cult icon Robert Englund (whose subtle turn as an unemployed small-town loser owes nothing to his flamboyant Freddy Kreuger), Amanda Plummer and Kim Dickens, whose searing appearance in Alison Anders' 2001 THINGS BEHIND THE SUN should have catapulted her to Hollywood's A-list, as a Portland-based TV reporter.
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- Released: 2008
- Rating: R
- Review: Ostensibly the tale of a man out to nail the spoiled punk who killed his dog, this slow-burn revenge tale is at heart a brutally nuanced character study anchored by Brian Cox's astonishing performance as a man driven to extremes by his thwarted quest for a… (more)